The Breakthrough Guide to Building and Managing a Sales PlayBook
November 10, 2022
As we near the latter half of Q4 and are thinking ahead to 2023, we wanted to re-share an important post on the value of a Sales PlayBook. Here is a breakthrough guide on how to build and manage a Sales PlayBook!
These days, Sales PlayBook is a pretty common term. For some people, it describes a sales manual. For others, it’s a sales bible.
The truth is, a truly great Sales PlayBook is everything you want it to be. There is no set of criteria that makes something a Sales PlayBook or not. It all depends on the wants and needs of your sales organization, mixed with your team’s ability to create and upkeep the tool.
Are you looking for a place to store sales best practices, processes, ideologies and more? Interested in creating a knowledge platform to increase sales and unify your sales organization? Or, maybe you’re just looking to increase sales across the board.
It’s time to build a Sales PlayBook.
In this article, we’re going to cover why sales teams need a Sales PlayBook. But, as you read through this article, I want you to remember that the best Sales PlayBooks are unique. This means you’re going to want to put your own spin on it!
What is a Sales PlayBook?
A Sales PlayBook is a collection of best practices for selling in an organization. It's everything your company needs to be successful in sales. This includes things like:
- Where to source leads
- How to run a sales team meeting
- How to introduce yourself and your company
- Your value proposition
- A library of success stories
- The common problems your solution solves for clients
- Weekly goals pages for individual salespeople
- A forum to ask questions and collaborate
- HR information
- And anything else that helps your sales team function efficiently.
Sounds pretty broad, right?
To narrow it down, let’s discuss the purpose of a Sales PlayBook.
In other words, let's answer the fundamental question of “Why do I need a Sales PlayBook?”
The true purpose of a Sales PlayBook is to enable selling organizations to function as one united whole.
This unit includes all departments that support, or “touch,” sales including:
- client delivery
- and more
Depending on your industry, you may also include scientific and engineering roles in the building and management of the Sales PlayBook.
Why is it important to function as one unit?
Why can’t sales just sell and marketing, market? Similarly, why would client delivery or programing ever touch something related to sales?
Siloed departments are a huge detriment to any successful sales organization. When departments don’t communicate, the following happens:
- Sales sells solutions that the rest of the organization is unable to deliver either in time, or at all.
- The sales team uses outdated pitch decks or other collateral, giving prospects the wrong information.
- After sales closes a deal, there’s no true handoff to implementation. (This hurts the client more than anyone.)
The list goes on. In a complex, consultative sell, there are a lot of people involved. Each department has different insights into how your solution can be improved or how sales can function more efficiently.
This is crucial because, without sales, your company will cease to exist.
PlayBooks keep your company’s best practices in the hands of your employees. Think about your top performers. They’re your best assets and probably help lift less-experiences sales reps to a higher level of success because of this.
Now, if these top performers were all to leave, so would all of your company's tribal knowledge. Tribal knowledge is all of the unwritten information, methods, tools, and practices that isn't commonly known by outsiders of your company, but is needed to produce quality work.
A lot of times, sales organizations rely on the “old dogs” of a sales team for all kinds of information and assistance. And when those top reps leave, get promoted, or retire, the organization suffers. In fact, by 2025, nearly 25% of the American population will be over 60 years old. This means companies need to prepare for a large wave of retirement now, before it's too late.
A Sales PlayBook takes your company's tribal knowledge and puts it into a shareable format for everyone to benefit from.
How to build a Sales PlayBook:
Building a Sales PlayBook is not a one-person job. In fact, the more perspectives involved, the better.
This goes back to what we said earlier about including different departments that support sales.
We recommend putting together what we call a Sales Growth Team.
It’s up to you to decide if people join this team on a volunteer basis or at leadership's choosing. We recommend limiting the amount of people on this team to be less than 12. This way, there’s plenty people to contribute different viewpoints and to do the work, but not so many that it’s an issue to manage.
Whoever is managing the PlayBook creation should assign specific pages to different members of the Sales Growth Team. You’ll also want to create some type of timeline to go through the template we will describe below. Certain pages make sense to build out before others, and you’ll decide that with the Sales Growth Team.
The timeline also depends on your company’s goals for the Sales PlayBook.
Do you already have something similar to a PlayBook? Are you starting from scratch? Do you have a template? All of these questions should be answered before you get started on creating a Sales PlayBook.
Sales PlayBook Template:
While every PlayBook is unique, there is a standard template that can be applied. Here at Criteria for Success, we break our client’s PlayBooks up into at least 5 categories.
The 5 categories of a Sales PlayBook template include:
The foundation for successful selling is successful prospecting. The prospecting section focuses on everything your reps need to know to reach out to new customers and start the sales cycle.
The prospecting section should include instructions for creating a monthly prospecting action plan to be reviewed between reps and managers. It’s in the prospecting section where you will establish specific targets based on your ideal client profile.
Next, you’ll want to spell out how your reps should go out and find new customers. Create a lead sources page for ideas on how and where to find new prospects. We recommend focusing specifically on how to ask for referrals and effective networking.
Then, it’s time to focus on how your reps should reach out to new prospects by email or phone. It’s important for your sales reps to be able to introduce themselves and the company concisely. In prospecting, you’ll also want to include information on how to deliver a 30-second introduction.
Now, it’s time to move onto selling.
Effective selling is a combination of philosophy and mechanics. This means, you need to understand the “why” behind your actions before you tackle the “how.” The selling section should include information that includes both the philosophy and mechanics of sales activities.
A clear sales process is the most important function in any sales organization. This includes your sales reps fully understanding your organization’s value proposition and core strengths, as well as your unique product and services. All of this information should be available in the selling section of your Sales PlayBook.
In sales, there’s many different ways to actually sell.
In the selling section of your Sales PlayBook, all of the bases must be covered. For instance, what is your company’s process for effectively running a sales meeting? In other words, what are the fundamentals of a sales meeting along with the next steps that should be in place upon finishing?
In our Sales PlayBooks, we include many tools for our clients to build out in trainings. These tools include:
- A Problem/Opportunity Matrix to understand the prospect’s common problems
- A library of success stories for sales
- Common objections and responses
- A proper follow-up email/document. We recommend using a DEAL Email template.
Remember, you will have more areas in the selling section to align with your unique sales approach.
A strong support structure is essential to establishing and replicating sales best practices. The basics of sales support generally comprise of these three areas: management, marketing, and operations. Depending on your solution, these areas may be different.
This is why it’s crucial to have different support functions included in your Sales Growth Team. Build out the support section to include information for each different department involved.
For example, sales management should have information on how to adequately use the Sales PlayBook to manage their teams. In our PlayBooks, managers have access to their reps’ Weekly Goals pages to evaluate their progress with deals and more.
In today’s selling world, understanding how marketing and sales can collaborate is crucial.
Marketing supports the sales team through clarifying the business message, identifying targets, and generating leads. They also develop collateral for the sales team to use to sell. In this section of the PlayBook, spell out everything your sales and marketing teams need to know about working efficiently together.
Whatever you sell, your delivery organization should be represented in the PlayBook.
If you sell physical objects, you might include specs and support materials in this area. If you sell services, you might include client handoff and management guidelines.
Depending on the rest of your organization, you may also want to include pages for customer service, HR, or any other key departments in the Support section of your Sales PlayBook.
This is also a great section to include any information about hiring and onboarding new sales reps.
Sales functions are typically supported by a plethora of important systems and software. In this section, provide necessary information on any systems you may use. These include:
- PlayBook administration tips
- Project management software
- Using phone and videoconferencing systems
- And more!
Think of what your team needs to know to use the systems you have. So often organizations depend on help menus but fail to document their internal policies and procedures. Your Sales PlayBook is a great place to track how your team should use systems and tools.
This section is all about encouraging collaboration within your sales organization.
Depending on the needs of your team, you may want to add a forum to this section, or link to a third party communication software!
We’ve seen clients use this section to build team morale and relationships. They ask questions like “what’s your favorite pop song?” or “what is the best book you’ve read in the past year?”
Some clients use this area of the PlayBook to share org charts and company updates.
You can even share team photos or videos in this section!
Want to spread the word? Click here or on the image below to Tweet this graphic on the importance of documenting tribal knowledge!
Maintaining Your Sales PlayBook
Once you’ve built your own PlayBook, there’s still work to be done.
The whole point of the PlayBook is being a knowledge center that employees can use to answer questions and learn. With that said, it must be up to date.
Schedule meetings once a quarter with key players, like the Sales Growth Team, to brainstorm updates in the PlayBook. Or, if it works better for your team, update the PlayBook as needed. If you choose the latter option, it’s important to still schedule quarterly meeting to make sure the updates are actually happening.
You may find that it makes the most sense to identify an update schedule for each page or area in the PlayBook and assign a specific owner, or you might prefer to do an overall review on a scheduled cadence. Pick the approach that works best for your team.
Additionally, a PlayBook is a great resource after any sales training event. It's a good idea to log all material from the sales training in your Sales PlayBook.
Remember, keeping your Sales PlayBook up to date is crucial for your organization’s sales success.
Using a Sales PlayBook for Management
There's many things you can use a PlayBook for, including managing sales teams. Use the Sales PlayBook to track user activity to make sure your team is using the resource. Similarly, use the PlayBook to discuss short term and long term goals. Specifically, add a weekly goals page for each sales rep so you, the manager, can guide them to success!
Don't forget: Sales PlayBooks are crucial for managing remote sales teams! In fact, if built correctly, you should be able to effectively manage a remote sales team with a sales playbook. Use the PlayBook for accountability, building relationships, and more!
Let's Talk Sales! The Elements of a Winning Sales PlayBook – EP. 191
If you want to learn more about the elements of a winning Sales PlayBook, you won't want to miss this episode of Let's Talk Sales!
- Why it's important for a company to store their tribal knowledge
- The problems a Sales PlayBook solves
- The core elements of a winning Sales PlayBook
- Actionable tips sales leaders should implement in their Sales PlayBook
Want to get started building your Sales PlayBook? Schedule a Sales PlayBook demo with us to get the ball rolling.
These are extremely useful steps, Arianna — thanks for breaking it down! I really appreciate the fact that you shared a few helpful tips for maintaining a playbook as that was something my team struggled with for some time. With turnover and promotions, it can be difficult to ensure content is getting updated. We found 2 things helped us: First, we started optimizing our content for speed over fidelity. Sure, fancy videos are nice, but we found that our team engaged with simple text, pictures, and screenshots that were super easy to update rapidly. Secondly, we also implemented sales enablement softwarethat actually gives us a “freshness” score for content. We can actually filter our training materials based on their creation/update dates and easily identify materials that haven’t been updated in a while. It’s really helped our sales enablement team keep our playbook fresh and up-to-date over the last year!
Thanks for the comment! It’s definitely important to keep your PlayBook up to date as your team grows and changes. We keep ours evolving with the tight-knit Sales Growth Team I mentioned in the article. I’m glad you found a solution that works for your team.